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Last of the Summer Wine

The last trip of last year was an absolute blast!!!! With about a 90% return rate, most of our guests have become life-long friends and organise between themselves when they are coming back for a trip. A great bunch had done this, so it was more a trip away with friends than a work trip - one of the great things about turning your passion into a business!

The last trip of the season was our Central Otago Gold Trails trip in April and three couples, who had already been with us in January, and a couple of others, decided to drive all the way back from Auckland to join us, meeting in Fairlie on Monday morning.

The first day of every trip is quite relaxed and nothing more than gravel roads, albeit with some steep climbs, descents and some reasonable drop-offs.

We like to use the first day to get to know everyone and assess how well they know their vehicle and, most importantly, the gears. Whilst our trips are not a “driving instruction course”, we do give handy hints along the way about how to drive off road, with favourites generally being river crossings and recovery.

So, Monday morning, we all met up and, after a mandatory safety briefing and trip to the famous Fairlie Bakery for pies, we started our journey South to Ranfurly. The first day is excellent, taking in various passes and the Black Forest Station pylon road above Lake Benmore.

There is so much history and I normally designate one passenger to read over radio from Ray Stone’s excellent book “Stories from our Back Roads”. If you haven’t read this book and love getting out exploring, it is a must have! Ray has done so much research into the history of the legacy of that we have, in terms of tracks and it’s a fascinating read!!!

I still find it hard to believe that the Mackenzie Country is named after a sheep thief of Scottish origins and not a noble man or politician - you can find the full story in Ray’s book.

The other amazing thing about the drive down to Ranfurly and North of the Waitaki River, is the number of wallabies. The first time that I drove down that way, I was surprised to see a “super-sized” rabbit dead on the side of the road. When I pulled over and saw the size of it’s tail , I realised that it wasn’t a rabbit at all!

One of the best road signs that I like is the one driving into Kurow, the home of Ritchie McCaw. The sign reads, Welcome to Wallaby Country! Brilliant!!!

Before arriving in Ranfurly, we normally stop at the Danseys Pass pub, which is always a popular place to pop in for a drink and a piece of history in itself.

The second day, takes us over to Omarama via the saddle and as most of the guests had already done the trip a few months prior, we changed direction and went up the East branch and back down the West. The Boots and Jandels Pub in Omarama, is always a great place to hang out and have lunch. Sometimes we stop and have a picnic lunch, but most of the time, people are happier going to the pub for a bite. Warning! The portions are very generous, so if you’re not really that hungry, better to go for something light.

As the week continues, the tracks become more challenging. In Central Otago, the number of tracks is huge and we normally adjust the days activities to suit our geusts’ capability and level of confidence.

The best day of the trip, in my opinion, is the day that we spend in the Oteake Conservation Area, passing the Mount Buster diggings and heading down Johnstons Creek. The area is vast and is definitely some of the best Overlanding available in New Zealand. We stop at Mount Buster diggings, which are the highest in New Zealand at around 1600m.

Heaven knows who decided that there was gold up there, and getting there and the living conditions must have been horrendous!!! I think that we’re all a bit soft today!

One morning, after a trip to the Waipiata pub the previous evening, I noticed that there was something blue and rubber cable tied to my exhaust... sabotage by a competitor?

I pointed it out to one of the guests and she doesn’t have a poker face, so I knew the culprit straight away. As I tend to leave early in the evenings to have a bit of “me time” and catch up on work, one of my favourite guests, who will remain nameless, had fitted an industrial work glove to my exhaust. Apparently as I drove away, the whole team was outside the pub filming as the glove expanded until bursting point. They all found it hilarious and, as no damage was done, I found it pretty funny too.

The final day of the trip saw us taking on Thomsons George track and the option to head up Mount Moka. Mount Moka is very short but also very rocky and steep and is really the culmination and final “Huzzah” of the trip. We couldn’t see anything from the top, but the drive up and down was fun!!!!!

After that, we headed into Cromwell for a quick cold one and the team dispersed, to return next season.

If you would like to join us on one of our trips, have a look at

We look forward to seeing you out on the trails!!!!!

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